Occupying most of a city block, this 1.5-hectare park is anchored by the Gothic Revival Cathedral Church of St. James, which was built after the Great Fire of 1849 destroyed its predecessor. The land east of the church served as a graveyard until the buried were relocated in 1850 to nearby St. James Cemetery; an estimated 5000 victims of cholera remain interred in unmarked graves in the northeastern section of the parcel. When the City of Toronto acquired the land beside the church circa 1960, it was quadrisected by Commercial and Market Streets, both lined with buildings. By the mid-1970s the streets were closed and the structures demolished, with benches and picnic tables installed on the lawn. In the early 1980s a Victorianesque period garden was created within the park, and its design, by Landplan Collaborative, Ltd., received a 1984 National Merit award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. In 2005 landscape architect Wendy Shearer redesigned the garden, which is maintained by the Garden Club of Toronto.
Lined with ornate benches and lampposts, walkways originating on the northern and southern perimeters cross among mature maples, intersecting at a paved apron near a bandstand. To the south lies the formal garden, where four flagstone walkways emanate from a circular pool and tiered fountain to partition an octagonal lawn. Here geometric display beds with period plantings are disposed symmetrically and contained within a hedge and iron fence. To its west, a walkway encircles an herb garden with a central cherub sculpture, while elsewhere a bronze bust memorializes nineteenth-century reformer Robert Gourlay.